This May, students and researchers will have the opportunity to visit the largest archive of Texas Baptist documents in the state, which Baylor has relocated from Dallas to Waco.
The collection will be held in a building across the street from the Diana Garland School of Social Work in downtown Waco. This comes after Baylor bought the Baptist General Convention of Texas building that originally housed the collection. The purchase was for the Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas, which needed more space.
Last fall, Baylor University offered to house the Historical Collection as part of an agreement between the university and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
The building formerly housed the large archive of historical documents relating to Baptists in Texas.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas no longer needed the space, which they were leasing to Baylor for nursing classes, due to downsizing. Baylor approached them and asked if it would be willing to talk about selling the property.
The 100,000-square-foot building was built on lands provided by Baylor Hospital in Dallas, and was close to the nursing school.
Kathy Hillman, a Baylor librarian, professor and also the immediate former president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, discussed how the building was obtained.
“Texas Baptists were not looking to sell their building, but anything is for sale if you get the right offer,” Hillman said.
Baylor paid $2 million for the building, which has conducted classes for nursing majors since January 2016. Baylor also offered to host the next four conventions in Waco starting this year.
Baylor Hospital had the first rights to purchase the building because it was on land that they had provided.
“They were very pleased that Baylor would want that building for the school of nursing,” Hillman said.
Baylor Hospital, which provides clinicals for Baylor nursing students and employs Baylor nursing graduates, approved the sale.
“It was truly a win-win-win,” Hillman said.
The Texas Baptists Historical Collection was started in 1932, and contains about 4,000 linear feet of material, including the church minutes from the oldest Protestant church in Texas, Old Pilgrim.
“It includes archives from by and about Texas Baptists whether it’s about churches, associations, or individuals,” Hillman said.
The collection also holds other archival materials like minutes, letters, pictures, church publications and bulletins.
“We’ve got about 3,000 boxes that we need to go through and arrange,”said Alan Lafever, Director of Texas Baptist Historical Collection. “I’ve got a staff of four including me that work with the collection. We’ve already gone through some of the collection.”
Lafever, who also teaches “Baptist Identity” and “Church History” in Truett Seminary, said the university will digitize the collection.
An advantage to relocating the collection, is that researchers will not have to travel between Dallas and Waco, where Baylor currently houses the Texas Collection on campus.
“We now have the two largest collections of Texas Baptists in the same city. Now researchers can go five minutes between the two collections,” Lafever said.
The archival process is expected to take some time, and although there is not a definite date for the grand opening, it is expected to be open in May.
“We started moving the collection to Waco in the January of this year,” Lafever said. “We had so much material we had to do it in four moves, the last of which was last Thursday.”